Patrick Kavanagh

Patrick Kavanagh to Patrick Swift

Dear Paddy as George Barker does,
Letter in rhyme pleaseth us.
Here I am in old New York
With drinking as my daily work.
I see the Farrellys regular,
At present this is how they are:
John's right arm is paralysed
The radial nerve he was advised.
Dede is well and I'm sure the same
And nothing sorry that I came.
A year ago was Lecture Time
An orgy out of reality.
(To hell with rhyme)
It was something that had happened like a great
Love affair or an accident of fate
And we were involuntary players
At Olympian affairs.
Elizabeth Smart called
Much news of London she told
How you were raging
Over the bolloxy paging
In Nimbus. By the Lord Harry
George Barker is superior at this carry-
On in rhymed letter.
But I'll be better.
A defect in USA society
In the absence of that moiety
Of persons who can make the province
A Parnassian metropolis.
Provincials all.
I hear that Cronin is engaged
On life of Joyce — good man himself.
I hope your Oonagh and the baby
Are doing fine. I'll soon be back
About May and I may go via London
By air and see you there.
New York floats on whiskey.
The Arts Council I hear
Are publishing the Lectures,
They are in print.
Of course they are not the actual script
Though my praise of Barker is in.
I called it the Forgiven Plough
From Blake's line, you know:
'The cut worm forgives the plough.'
The audience is the cut worm,
Cronin gave me the idea.
As I mentioned at the top of this page
No consecrated bishops of the Muse,
Are here to confer orders:
All look to London or to some vague otherwhere.

Swift had introduced Dede and John Farrelly, whom he befriended in Positano, to Kavanagh, and it was under Dede's patronage that Kavanagh made his trip to New York Gandon Editions, 1993


Patrick Kavanagh: A Biography
Antoinette Quinn

...his meeting with Claire McAllister in late spring 1948... she had come to Europe to study and was visiting Dublin from Paris... Their paths did cross again, for Claire moved to Dublin in 1949. Alas for Kavanagh, she soon became the live-in partner of one of his new friends, the talented young painter Patrick Swift...
Envoy, launched in December 1949 under John Ryan's editorship, rather than being socially orientated like The Bell, had a cultural mission to present all that was outstanding and genuinely creative in Irish art and to bring the best in international writing and art to the attention of Irish readers... Ryan recruited some of the liveliest and most progressive Irish or Ireland-based writers, intellectuals and artists...
Every month his 'Diary' appeared...
Around one o'clock the Envoy office would empty itself into John McDaid's...where much of the journal's business was conducted. The clientele was a mixture of working class and bohemian... Kavanagh had not patronised McDaid's in the past, but from now on he adopted it as his city-centre local...
His association with Envoy brought him into contact with a circle of young artists and intellectuals. Chief among these, apart from John Ryan himself, were Anthony Cronin (1928- ), Patrick Swift (1927-83) and, to a lesser extent at first, John Jordan (1930-88). Cronin and Swift would remain his friends, allies and promoters until the early sixties, Ryan and Jordan for the remainder of his life...
Patrick Swift came to prominence as a painter at the Irish Exhibition of Living Art in 1950, when one influential critic rated him the most promising of the newcomers. Kavanagh had at first dismissed the 23-year-old artist as a phoney because he was something of a dandy... he may have been further irritated by Swift's annexing of Claire McAllister as his live-in partner... Swift and 'Marmalade', as she was known because of her red hair, were a couple by April 1949. According to Swift, Kavanagh at their first meeting denounced him as 'nothing but a gurrier and a fucking intellectual fraud.' After this, Swift kept his distance. Some months later he was lunching with Patrick MacDonogh, poet and Guinness rep... as soon as MacDonogh left he joined Swift at the counter and asked what he was doing 'with that fraud MacDonogh?' 'You shouldn't be wastin' your time with fucking phoneys like that. I've been thinking about you and I think you may well be the real thing!' It was a gambit to have a drink bought for him, but the two got talking and the friendship took off. Swift's love of Auden's verse — he knew quantities of it off by heart and loved reciting it — rekindled Kavanagh's enthusiasm for its contemporary images and idioms... While by no means blind to Kavanagh’s faults, Swift believed in his genius and indulged him and, since he was not an artistic rival, the older man did not feel threatened and came to lean on Swift as a beloved nephew...

...Despite the age gap between him and this group of twenty-somethings Kavanagh was adopted by them... Brendan Behan dubbed him 'the King of the kids'...
The young writers and painters he was meeting through Envoy tended to be European in their artistic and intellectual interests. The Irish writer they most respected was James Joyce... The young writer with whom Kavanagh was to maintain a very public feud unto the death was Brendan Behan (1932-64). At first there was no friction between them. Kavanagh looked on Behan primarily as a house painter who dabbled in literature... By the end of 1950 the enmity between the two writers was so bitter that it was difficult to credit they had ever been on friendly terms...
Since both men drank in McDaid's from 1950 onwards, relations rapidly turned sharply antagonistic. Between 1950 and 1953 Behan developed into an alcoholic... Behan, who was over twenty years Kavanagh's junior, initiated hostilities by telling him to his face in McDaid's the he was a failure. There was a great deal of sympathy for the poet because the taunt had a ring of truth to it; he had no regular employment other than his 'Diary' and was publishing very little poetry...
In conversation with Anthony Cronin, Kavanagh sometimes referred to his Envoy phase as a time of poetic rebirth...

...1956... Oonagh and Patrick Swift, who had been living in London since November 1952... were back in Dublin for the forthcoming birth of their first child. Kavanagh had stayed with the couple in London and was very taken with Oonagh. He insisted in squiring her to Waiting for Godot at the Pike Theatre...
Kavanagh and Swift had resumed the close friendship they had enjoyed in the Envoy years. When Katherine (Kate) Swift was born, the obstetrician was presented with a lithograph of the poet. Swift, brimming with ideas and intellectual activity as ever, was soon directing some of his energy into masterminding the more passive Kavanagh's career. Macmillan's rejection had left him very downcast...
Patrick Swift was invited to peruse the contents and decided that the poems should be published. He had to return to London in late February but persuaded Kavanagh to entrust the precious typescript to his brother, Jimmy, to have three copies professionally typed up... sent one copy each to David Wright and Martin Green in London and presented the third to the poet...
At this time the poet David Wright, a friend of Patrick Swift's whom Kavanagh had known since autumn 1952, was co-editor with Tristram Hull of Nimbus... Patrick Swift relayed his comments: 'I am incoherent with enthusiasm; he is not an Irish poet, he is the Irish poet. This is the goods. All my life I have been wrong about PK.'...
Kavanagh was quite proud of his new status as lecturer in the Extra-Mural Studies Department of University College Dublin. In the spring of 1956 he decided to publicise his role by giving a series of ten lectures... the audiences began to dwindle... There was a large crowd for a few weeks, then the numbers began to fall off. Before he went back to London in late February, Patrick Swift had asked his brother to attend the lectures and to bring others along, so that the series would not collapse...
Nimbus published 19 poems... Publication there was to prove the turning point... the publication of his next volume of verse, Come Dance with Kitty Stobling, was to be directly linked to the mini-collection in Nimbus, and his Collected Poems (1964)...

...October 1959... He stayed with Oonagh and Patrick Swift, who were renting the garden flat of 9 Westbourne Terrace, a large Victorian house where Elizabeth Smart and her children lived on the top floor... the flat at 9 Westbourne Terrace was itself a mini-Soho... Kavanagh felt better than he had in years. Writing about this visit to the Archbishop, he presented Leland Bardwell's and the Swift's flat, where tipsy writers talked into the small hours, as 'enclaves of enthusiasm and love which give physical as well as mental health'...
Patrick Swift and David Wright were launching a new journal, X, in late November; he had two poems, 'Living in the Country' and 'Lecture Hall', in the first number and one of his reasons for being in London was to share in the excitement of his friends' new venture...
When the Arts Council returned the typescript of The Forgiven Plough on 20 November, having decided against publication, it would only have confirmed Kavanagh's view that his future lay in London. He was back there for Christmas, his third visit in two months. Katherine was the magnet, of course, but with Leland Bardwell, Anthony Cronin, Elizabeth Smart, Patrick Swift, David Wright and an expanding circle of Soho writers and artists to fraternise with, he had nearly as many friends in London as in Dublin. 'A Summer Morning Walk' recalls his drinking binge that Christmas and the attendant hangovers in the 'Paddington crater' (the Swifts' basement flat at 9 Westbourne Terrace):

Lying on a bed in a basement, unable
To lift my sickness to a fable,
Hating the sight of a breakfast table.

On Christmas Day stretched out, how awful
Not heeding the Church's orders lawful
While everyone else is having a crawful.

It is black all round as terror stricken
I climb stone steps, trying not to weaken,
My legs are taking a terrible licking...

I was as sick as the devil's puke...

In a draft version of this poem, he makes his way to the George on Christmas Day to meet the blind poet John Heath-Stubbs and is joined by David Wright, George Barker and an unnamed Soho queer...
Much of 1960 was spent to-ing and fro-ing between Dublin and London... In London he generally stayed with the Swifts...
­ Antoinette Quinn, Patrick Kavanagh: A Biography, Gill & Macmillan, 2001


Dublin Oil - Dublin Watercolour/ Ink - Italy - Oakridge/ Ashwell Watercolour - Oakridge/ Ashwell Oil - London Oil - London Watercolour/ Ink - France - Algarve Oil - Algarve Watercolour/ Ink - Self-Portraits - Trees - Portraits I - Portraits II - Porches Pottery - Books - Misc - Algarve Studio
Note: many of the reproductions displayed here are of poor quality

By Swift
Nano Reid - Some notes on Caravaggio - Italian Report - The Artist Speaks - X magazine - RHA Exhibition 1951 - Eça de Queiroz & Fernando Pessoa - The Portuguese Enigma - Notebooks - All

About Swift
Patrick Swift: An Irish Painter in Portugal - IMMA 1993 Retrospective Catalogue - Dublin 1950-2 - By His Friends - X magazine - Poems - Further Quotes About - All

By His Friends
Anthony Cronin - John Ryan - John Jordan - C.H.Sisson - Martin Green - John McGahern - David Wright - Lima de Freitas - Katherine Swift - Tim Motion - Lionel Miskin - Jacques D'Arribehaude - Brian Higgins - George Barker - Patrick Kavanagh

Further Quotes
Brian Fallon - Aidan Dunne - Derek Hill - Brendan Behan - Lucian Freud - Patrick Kavanagh - Elizabeth Smart - Further Quotes About